October 15, 2023
Every now and again you have a moment when you glimpse above the fray and see clearly how the journey got you here. As we enter our 32nd year as a Registered Investment Advisor, this is one of those moments.
The original Christopher Weil & Company, Inc. (“CWC”) was formed in 1970 as an SEC-registered securities broker-dealer.
Side bar #1. Minimum net capital requirement, $5,000. Those were the days.
Like most similar firms at the time, CWC was based on a commission model where revenue was derived from the sale of publicly traded securities (stocks, bonds, mutual funds). But unlike other similar firms, I soon “strayed” into another business; real estate investment. I formed an affiliate company to serve as general partner in what turned out to be as I had hoped, a series of real estate limited partnerships.
Side bar #2. At least I had six years of experience in the securities business before forming CWC. I had none in the real estate business. This did not deter me but did result in a few early failures.
I also spent some time during the early 1970s involved with the then nascent financial planning business. I had a sense that this business could develop into a profession, with its own standards, best practices and disciplines – which in fact has happened, although it took decades to do so. In its early years, however, the business was something of a mashup with various institutions and interests (investment companies, life insurance companies, brokerage firms, and various trade associations) seeking to achieve a dominant position in the hope that their particular product or service would become the financial planner’s core offering.
Side bar #3. Nobody talks about it today, but in its early days the financial planning business had a bit of a cloud over its head. A man by the name of Loren Dunton was the driving force behind the establishment of the first financial planning trade association as well as the first magazine devoted to financial planning. He had previously published a fairly successful book with the unfortunate title “How To Sell More Mutual Funds, Especially To Women.” It was just a cloud then. Today it would be a hurricane, rightly so.
Over the next fifteen years both firms grew slowly but steadily. Then, in 1985, an affiliate of a New York Stock Exchange-listed firm made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. It offered to buy both the broker-dealer and the real estate general partner entities for what seemed to me to be a premium price.
Side bar #4. It was a good price but with the advantage of thirty-eight years of hindsight I can say it wasn’t enough. “You can never go broke taking a profit.” True. But you can also leave a hell of a lot on the table if you leave the game too early.
I stayed with the buyer for three years, and then, in the late ‘80s, was released from my indentures.
Finding myself unemployed for the first time since 1947, when as a ten year old I was selling newspapers on the corner of Ventura and Laurel Canyon, I looked to my wife for some guidance. “How about I retire?” She didn’t think that was such a good idea. “Well then, I’ll just start again.” Recognizing at that time that I had two possible approaches to the investment business, commission-based or fee-based, I chose both. I wasn’t 100% sure that the industry standard was going to shift, but I intuited that Registered Investment Advisor was the way to go, as a fee-based relationship aligns an advisor’s interests with the clients, thereby eliminating many of the conflicts of interest inherent in a commission-based relationship. And thus, The Weil Company dba: Christopher Weil & Company, Inc. (“WEIL”) became a broker-dealer in January of 1990 and a Registered Investment Advisor in November of 1992.
Side bar #5. Removing conflicts of interest, which resulted in the edict “we eat our own cooking,” is just one example of how refining our focus back then impacts how we work today. Before they are hired, every employee of WEIL is asked to sign a pledge to invest only in assets that are available to clients of WEIL. This value is so central to our culture that we are unlikely to hire anyone who is resistant to this request.
By 2008, the number of clients preferring a commission-based relationship over a fee-based one was negligible, and it was clear that my intuition was correct. In 2015 we jettisoned the broker-dealer for good. We could have done it earlier, but the emotional attachment I had to my roots made it a challenge to let go.
Fast forward to now. As generally happens when you do good work, are diligent at what you do, and employ intelligent and competent people with a service orientation, your business grows. And that is what has happened to us. Currently WEIL employs twenty-four talented, hard-working, thoughtful people who advise, invest, provide client services, guide the Team in compliance, run the daily operations of the business, build and maintain our firm culture, and keep us all communicating both internally and externally. (Our newest member of the Advisory Team, Kimberly Higgins, just came aboard in August.)
Side bar #6. When I started WEIL in 1990, it was just me, my daughter Kit, and a Compliance Officer. While our growth has been slow and measured, we have managed to persevere through numerous economic and market disruptions. There’s a plaque on my wall for a Storage Equities common stock offering from 1980 (in 1995 Storage Equities became Public Storage) where the original Christopher Weil & Company, Inc. was one of the twenty-four named underwriters and part of the selling group. All but a few are now gone; high-profile names including Bear Stearns, Paine Webber, and Drexel Burnham. Next time you’re in the office, I’ll show you the plaque.
WEIL, not unlike many other businesses, has been reengineered as we have adapted to the evolution of the marketplace. The way we would have described ourselves originally is not how we describe ourselves today. In a rapidly evolving world, change is a necessity for any business. Meeting the ever-changing needs of our clients and our Team is a vital requirement. Curiosity, a core value of WEIL, has been a bedrock in my life and this company. While change is hard (see, letting go of the broker-dealer above), the path forward lies in the ability to be curious. Consider one of the latest significant advancements that is sure to lead to fundamental change; Large Language Models (think ChatGPT and Google Bard). Silicon Valley is abuzz with chatter that this AI technology could take the place of the ubiquitous and seemingly irreplaceable iPhone. Talk about rapid change and the need to adapt; the first iPhone was only released sixteen years ago.
So here we are thirty plus years on, with a curiosity that has allowed us to adapt, a maturity that has given us better focus, and a business comprised of three components.
First, WEIL is a financial advisor. Our advisory staff has a deep understanding of all aspects of personal finance (retirement, estate, tax, and philanthropic planning, investment and investment management, real estate, private equity and more). There are financial advisory roles we do not play. We are not lawyers or accountants. But we know many of the important questions that clients need to ask these professionals and are often instrumental in directing client attention to possible improvements in estate and tax planning.
Second, WEIL is a portfolio manager. The assets that comprise the corpus of these portfolios are, with one exception, liquid securities (stocks, bonds, mutual funds and ETFs, including our own publicly-traded mutual fund, CWCFX). The exception: when suitable, we will include what are now called alternative investments, generally illiquid special situation/opportunity funds managed by major institutional sponsors.
Third, one financial advisory specialty, once one among many, has taken on such importance that we now characterize it as a service in its own right. WEIL offers Estate Transition Services, a service housed primarily within the advisory and client service teams, but can, depending on the client, touch every department in the firm. Estate Transition Services can be triggered by death, disability, or some other form of incapacity. Our Team offers your trustee, executor and/or family members experienced, knowledgeable partnership just when the need for such partners is most critical.
Over the years some of you may remember me asking “how old are you these days?” These days I’m 86. In 1990, everything started and ended with me. Today, WEIL has an executive team and a management team. The management team, comprised of five managers, manages all twenty-four members of the Team, including me. I show up to work three days a week continuing as Chairman of the Board and a member of the Advisory team; positions I’ve held since 2004. At the helm is our President & CEO, John Wells (in a position he’s held since 2004). The firm is now, and has been for some time, structured in Teams. (See a Team list on the last page.) It’s obvious to us that this provides the best possible client experience (and staff experience). We recently workshopped our Firm’s Guiding Principles. At the top is Our Purpose succinctly described as “strengthening financial wellbeing and prosperity.” Everyone that works here is proud of what we have accomplished and each of us looks forward to fulfilling Our Purpose for every one of our clients.
I close this newsletter with the heavy-hearted news that my friend of fifty plus years and retired WEIL advisor, Joe Kresse, recently passed away. Joe received his bachelor’s degree in Economics and master’s in Accounting & Finance from Stanford University. Service as a lieutenant in the Navy followed. Joe went on to build his career as a partner at Arthur Andersen and then later served as Executive Director for a Palo Alto non-profit. In 2008, Joe decided on a part-time career as an advisor with WEIL. Some of you are clients of WEIL because Joe brought you here and many of us here at the firm had the pleasure of working with Joe on a regular basis until he fully retired in 2019. Joe distinguished himself in many ways. We will remember him as principled, precise, trustworthy, and kind. We will miss him.
The WEIL Team (ordered by date of hire) with WEIL since:
Kimberly Higgins, CFP® (since 2023)
Maria Figueroa (since 2022)
Client Services Administrator
Vianca Tabuena, CFP® (since 2021)
Danae Baltierra (since 2020)
Client Services Associate
Kara Turner (since 2020)
Receptionist & Administrative Assistant
Christina Guiang (since 2019)
Jill Hayashi (since 2017)
Michael Hubbert, CIMA® (since 2016)
Co-Chief Investment Officer
Portfolio Manager, CWCFX
Jonathan Strauss, CFP® (since 2016)
Advisory Team Manager
Jillian Andrews (since 2016)
Compliance and Accounting Administrator
Tyler Richards Hewes, CFP® (since 2014)
Financial Advisor - Philanthropy Specialist
Catalina Cherny-Santos (since 2014)
Client Services Associate
Client Services Team Manager
Mary Strauss (since 2013)
Client Services Associate
Macy Olivas (since 2013)
Culture & Team Development
Victoria Chau (since 2013)
Erin Gaan (since 2011)
Client Services Administrator
Sandra Korwek (since 2006)
Contracts & Insurance Specialist
Danny Cung CFP®, CIMA® (since 2006)
Investment Officer, Portfolio Construction
Investment Team Manager
Georgia Hayashi (since 2003)
Client Services Administrator
Robert Gaan, CFP® (since 1999)
Lead Advisor - Real Estate Specialist
Chief Investor Relations Officer
Laura Sword (since 1994)
Chief Financial Officer/Chief Compliance Officer
Compliance & Accounting Team Manager
John Wells (since 1993)
President, CEO, & Co-CIO
Portfolio Manager, CWCFX
Kit-Victoria (Weil) Wells (since 1990)
Culture & Communications Officer
Culture & Communications Team Manager
Chris Weil (since 1990)
Chairman of the Board
This communication may contain privileged and confidential information; people other than the addressee should not review, distribute or duplicate it without permission. Nothing in this communication constitutes a solicitation by us for the purchase or sale of any securities. We do not accept account orders or instructions by e-mail, and will not be responsible for carrying out e-mailed orders or instructions. We provide reports as an accommodation to help you monitor your investment activity; securities pricing may not reflect reliable values. In the event of a discrepancy, the information in your confirmations of daily activity and monthly statement of account shall govern. While the information in this communication comes from sources believed to be reliable as of today, we make no representation as to its accuracy and completeness and provide no assurances as to future returns or performance. We may own positions in securities mentioned in this communication. Investing involves risks, including the possible loss of the principal amount invested. There can be no assurance that recommended investments will be successful in meeting their objectives. Investment in mutual funds is also subject to market risk, investment style risk, investment adviser risk, market sector risk, equity securities risk, and portfolio turnover risks. More information about these risks and other risks can be found in the fund prospectus. You may obtain a prospectus for CWC's mutual funds by calling us toll-free at 888.550.9266 or visiting www.cweil.com. The prospectus should be read carefully before investing. CWC's mutual funds are distributed by Arbor Court Capital, LLC, Member FINRA/SIPC. Nothing herein should be construed as legal or tax advice. You should consult an attorney or tax professional regarding your specific legal or tax situation. Christopher Weil & Company, Inc. may be contacted at 800.355.9345 or email@example.com.